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Aug 02, 2013

Whitney features best in handicap division


Saratoga Springs, NY (Sports Network) - Eight of the best older thoroughbreds, including defending winner Fort Larned, have been entered for Saturday's $750,000 Whitney Invitational Handicap at Saratoga Race Course.

Part of the Breeders' Cup "Win and You're In" program, a victory in the 1 1/8-mile Whitney guarantees a place for the winner in this November's Breeders' Cup Classic at Santa Anita.

Fort Larned, who won last year's Whitney by 1 1/4 lengths, is the 7-5 morning- line favorite and will defend his crown from post 3 with jockey Brian Hernandez Jr. again in the saddle. Hernandez has been aboard the 5-year-old for the last seven races, including wins in June's Stephen Foster and last year's Breeders' Cup Classic.

"It would be special," trainer Ian Wilkes said about a repeat win. "I'm fortunate enough to train a few horses for Marylou Whitney, which would make it even more special.

"I think he's a more mature horse right now; he's more battle-tested. He's run some huge races against some of the best competition."

Owned by Janis Whitham, the 5-year-old went over the $4 million mark in career earnings with the Foster victory. Fort Larned has won nine of 22 lifetime starts for $4,031,417.

He lost Hernandez at the start of the Gulfstream Park Handicap to begin his 2013 campaign in March and was fifth in the Oaklawn Handicap on April 13.

Last year's runner-up Ron the Greek will break from post 5 with Jose Lezcano again riding. Trained by Bill Mott, the 6-year-old will try to stop a three- race losing skid and is 6-1 in the program.

Ron the Greek, owned by Brous Stable and partners, began the year by winning the Florida Sunshine Millions Classic, but has come up empty the last three starts. He was fourth to Game on Dude in the Santa Anita Handicap and finished third in both the Charles Town Classic, again to "Dude", and Foster Handicap.

The 6-year-old has won eight of 26 lifetime starts for $2,029,691.

The 5-2 second pick is lightly raced Cross Traffic. Trained by Todd Pletcher, the 4-year-old gray colt will be ridden by Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez.

Cross Traffic, owned by GoldMark Farm, did not start his racing career until January of this year. He won his first two races at Gulfstream Park and followed with second-place performances at Belmont Park in the Westchester Handicap and Met Mile.

Cross Traffic has banked $231,300 from his four starts.

Here is the full field for the 86th Whitney in post position order: Successful Dan, Julien Leparoux, 12-1; Mucho Macho Man, Edgar Prado, 6-1; Fort Larned, Brian Hernandez Jr., 7-5; Cross Traffic, John Velazquez, 5-2; Ron the Greek, Jose Lezcano, 6-1; Alpha, Joel Rosario, 10-1; Csaba, Luis Saez, 20-1 and Fast Falcon, Junior Alvarado, 15-1.

The Whitney will be telecast on NBC Sports with an approximate post-time of 5:45p.m. (ET).

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